Day 50: Jacob Lake to North of Grand Canyon National Park
The plan was to hitchhike back to where I left the trail and pick up where I left off. This wound up being much more difficult than I expected it to be, or even than it needed to be.
I was up early and well rested and so I said farewell to Josh before heading out on the closed highway to try to catch an early employee at the park or someone doing maintenance work up there. I got to a junction that some local traffic uses where I began to wait. And then continued to wait. At least the sun came out. During my wait though, I began to question whether or not this would actually work. Just as I started toying with that idea, I heard the sound of a diesel engine. I put my thumb out as they went by and they stopped ahead, but one of them got out just to tell me they were completely full with hunting gear. He was nice and sincere so I understood and wished them well. The only other person that passed was a Hayduke Trail hiker on his way south.
As I continued to wait my warm sun was now behind an overcast sky with the temperature dropping. It began to get uncomfortable, and so after two hours I headed back to the inn.
I sat down in the lobby next to the fire place and called Josh to see if he was still around. In fact he was and was now waiting on his friend to show up who’d be there midday, at which point they’d decide what to do. He mentioned the possibility of staying another night, and so with the forecast going downhill again, I decided it wasn’t a bad plan.
Josh joined me in the lobby for a bit at which point I discovered my pickup plans on the second of May couldn’t be changed. Now I was struggling with potentially not completing the entire trail before heading back to Phoenix, which really bothered me, especially since I was so close to the end to only now have this weather wrench thrown into my plans. As we sat there, we couldn’t help but notice that it didn’t look that bad outside. Of course we could only guess what it looked like 30 miles south where I had left the trail.
Josh went out for a ride to test a few tweaks on his bike and I was left struggling in my confusion about what to do. I was now toying with a couple of options since the ride didn’t seem to be working out. I could head over to the trail from Jacob Lake and then head south, then after finishing that section, just hitchhike out again since getting a ride out seemed to be easier than getting in. The other option was to head to the trail the same way as the previous option, but then head north. I could get to the trailhead, then wait for my ride there, ideal if I stay another night. Then after I get my car, I can come back and finish the gap I left when the weather clears up. To be honest though I wasn’t fond of either plan, and so my indecision continued until Josh’s friend showed up. I told him Josh would be right back, and then he went straight for food.
Once Josh returned, I joined the two of them for lunch where they had decided to push through and finish the trail once they were done eating. In wondering out loud what I would do, our lunch neighbor chimed in and said he’d be happy to take me back where I had left off. He wasn’t an early employee or a hunter, he was just out on vacation and really wanted to see the north rim and was going to take national forest roads to get there. He said he could use someone to give him a bit of info on the roads, so I guess I had my answer for what to do.
As soon as we were done, I said goodbye again to Josh and headed out with Woody, who was retired and just exploring a part of the country he’d never seen. He had rented a heavy-duty van that could get through anything so he wasn’t worried about a bit of mud. He did get pretty excited though when, once on our way, it began to snow quite heavily. Of course this made me question my decision, but I figured I’d at least see how it looked back at the entrance station before making any rash judgments.
Surprisingly, a lot of the snow had melted off, and by the time we reached my destination, the sun was out and only a few clouds were above. It was too inviting not to be excited to be back on the trail. I thanked Woody and was immediately on my way.
Though my feet got wet quick, I wasn’t too worried about it. It was a perfect afternoon and the hiking was easy despite the pack being loaded down with my Jacob Lake mail drop. The occasional snow or sleet shower came and went, but nothing very threatening. It was perfect since all I really wanted to see was the East Rim Overlook. But as I got closer to it, a much stronger snow storm began to fall.
I could tell through the trees that there was a rim just beyond, but all I saw was white from the large snowy cloud I was trapped in. I pushed on hoping for a break up the trail since fortunately the rim itself lasts a mile or so. At one point, I was able to make out a faint orange color through the trees and snow, but that was it, at least at that time.
I came around a bend just as the snow began to dissipate and a faded view of Marble Canyon could be made out far below. The snow scaled back a bit more and not only did the view open up, but a rainbow was also forming just below the snow level. The Vermilion Cliffs stretched back into the distance where Navajo Mountain was also coming into view. The eastern Grand Canyon snaked across the wide desert canyon as storms all over the horizon appeared to be breaking up. It was an absolutely perfectly timed perfect moment and it was like this whole moment was orchestrated just to welcome me back onto the trail.
I enjoyed it as much as I could, but knowing showers would be back this evening, I pushed on to make more miles, both to catch up, and also to be away from the rim and hilltops since there was a chance for lightning overnight.
I kept a great pace through the conifer and aspen forests and managed to do about 14 miles since I had started at 2pm. It was now 7pm and wanting to be out of wind and potential lightning danger, found an ideal site to camp. I set up my tent, got everything tucked away inside, and as I began to eat dinner, heard some earlier than expected snow showers starting to fall outside. Hopefully I wouldn’t have too much snow to contend with in the morning.